Monday, June 20, 2011

US Visa and Mobile Phone

In the past few days I have seen my phone run over by a truck and successfully applied for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Arrangements) visa which you need to travel to the USA.

Having my phone squashed brought home to me how dependant we have all become on these little devices, bearing in mind that fifteen years ago nobody had one. I am ashamed to say that I was in quite a panic and did not experience a feeling of liberation that nobody could phone me up to complain about Chalk Services Inc. I suppose we forget that the downside of having such a useful gadget is the nightmare when it is taken away from us. It did disturb me how worried I became thinking that perhaps somebody was trying to contact me about some important matter.

It was entirely my own fault; I was standing in a garage forecourt blathering happily to a friend and noticed the petrol delivery tanker was arriving. We picked up our bags and moved away but I somehow dropped my phone in the process and only noticed when I heard a crackling sound from the vehicle's front tyre as it passed us. The driver then refused to move forward slightly so that I could recover the remains to see if the SIM card and any memory chips were still intact, so I had to wait until he had finished his business before scooping up my electronic pizza into a borrowed plastic bag much to the amusement of the garage staff.

I phoned up Orange (from another phone rather than my comically flat one) and was offered a replacement at only twice the price that they can be purchased from Ebay. I was also told by the customer services lady that I could leave my contract for an even more outrageous sum before being offered the chance to buy phone insurance at a discount! I could't resist pointing out that it ought to be discounted, as my phone probably wasn't worth much, being currently one foot square and one millimetre thick.

As far as the ESTA was concerned, I have to admit that I did pause for a while before ticking the box to claim that I had not engaged in 'moral turpitude' but had no hesitation in denying any involvement in the Nazi Party between 1933 and 1945. I paid the $14 fee reluctantly, but was cheered to later discover that $10 of this goes towards a fund to promote tourism to the US. I'm sure that I can't be the first person to wonder whether they could do a better job of encouraging it simply by not charging me to go there.

Still at least they take their Border Security a bit more seriously than we do.


Anonymous said...

May I be the first to point out that using a mobile phone at a petrol station is, in fact, totally safe.

Kimpatsu said...

As any expert will tell you, Frank, ESTA is nothing to do with border security and all about theatre. It's just dazzling enough to fool the ignorant rubes into thinking all these attacks on your rights are necessary to keep you safe, as if security vs. liberty were a zero-sum game. The reality is that US Homeland Security and the TSA are just petty bureaucrats who find some fun in teaching you who's boss. They serve no useful purpose, are a drain on taxpayers' money, and should be disbanded.
As to the $14 fee, the answer is simple: charge Americans $20 and make them wait 72 hours before they can fly to Europe, and then fingerprint them and strip-search them at the border, and then give them a piece of paper explaining that as soon as they stop doing it to us, we'll stop doing it to them. Then watch as American politicians change their tack. At the moment, because the harassment, humiliation, and inconvenience is all one-way, there is no comeback on the perpetrators, and there needs to be.
The same thing should happen to Japanese nationals as well.